Tango: From Traditional Dance to Modern Fusion

Tango Music Wiki

Tango developed from the rhythms of the poor areas of Montevideo and spread to Argentina and Uruguay. It grew in popularity at the turn of the century.

It is generally viewed as an art form that challenges traditional gender roles. Nevertheless, the music and dance can be very sensual.

Tango has continued to develop in the 21st century. The latest trends can be classified as tango fusion and range from very subtle to dominant electronic influences.


Tango is a musical and dance style that originated in Argentina at the end of the 19th century. It blends Spanish and African styles with European music, and it is a very popular style worldwide. It is often associated with a sense of melancholy and nostalgia. It is typically played on a bandoneon, a unique instrument with a whiny sound that was invented in the region.

Although present forms of tango developed in the mid-nineteenth century, there are earlier records of a dance that may share a common ancestor in a minuet-style European dance. It was mainly the Argentine cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo that fostered this style. Rosendo Mendizabal and Vicente Greco were among the first tango musicians of note, with the former standardizing the tango sextet consisting of piano, double bass, two violins, and two bandoneons.


Tango is a social dance, and its music has many styles. The present forms developed in Argentina and Uruguay, but they have also been exposed to influences reimported from Europe and elsewhere.

Traditional tango is played by an ensemble known as an Orquesta Tipica, usually consisting of two violins, flute, piano, double bass and at least one bandoneon. Guitars and clarinets can also be included in the group.

After the 1950s, tango music became popular throughout the world and was embraced in the United States. It became a part of the Nueva Canción movement and Argentine rock. Piazzolla and others promoted Nuevo Tango, which incorporated jazz and classical influences. More recently, tango has taken on electronic influences. This new style is sometimes called tango electronica or tango fusion.


Tango arose among urban lower class people in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the Rio de la Plata basin. It merged customs from diverse groups including European immigrants and indigenous people called criollos into a distinctive cultural identity that today includes dance, music, poetry and cuisine.

Early tango was often played in bars, brothels and by orchestras that traveled around the city on foot (organitos) playing portable player-organs. Later, it evolved into more complex, highly melodic music accompanied by dancing. A prominent figure of this period was Carlos Gardel, who helped transform tango from gangster music to respectable middle-class dance.

After Gardel, tango developed into various musical movements. Piazzolla’s reworking of tango, nuevo tango, made him controversial in Argentina, but his musical approach has since been taken up by many other musicians.


Although the origin of Tango is unknown, it developed as a combination of different cultures brought to Argentina and Uruguay by lower-class European immigrants and formerly enslaved African peoples. It is a social dance with a close connection between partners, focusing on leading and following rather than a competitive style.

It is a melodic music with two distinct styles: the rhythmical Argentinian and the European, which usually includes a piano, one or more violins, and a bandoneon. Unlike the European version, true Argentinian Tango never uses drum beats or heavy bass lines.

Musically, tango often contains melodic phrases that are both legato and staccato, and has an emphasis on the female voice. Tango has also inspired a genre of music called tango extranjero, which is performed outside of Argentina and has a different rhythm with fewer instruments and more drums.


After Carlos Gardel helped tango transition from lower-class “gangster” music to a respectable middle-class dance, tango developed into the “Golden Age”. This period saw the rise of large orchestras called orquestas tipicas that included two violins, two concertinas, one piano, and one bandoneon.

Piazzolla, who played the bandoneon himself, joined one of these orchestras and became a popular musician. He started to experiment with new sounds and break classic forms of tango, which earned him the derision of some purists.

Today tango is still a popular form of music and dancing. In the last few years, many groups have been using electronic elements to produce a modern version of the genre. This has been a success for some artists, such as the group Gotan Project who released several albums in 1999 and 2005 with songs that mix tango with beats and sounds that are not normally heard in tango.

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